At the end of October, I sent a third-draft of the second book in the Magnolia Bay series to my editor at Sourcebooks. Then, I enrolled in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to assist me in hammering out a first-draft of book three in the series. (There will be four books in the series.) Meanwhile, I received an Advanced Reader Copy of book one, along with a PDF of the almost-final draft from the production editor. I have until the end of November to do a final read-through and edit of Warm Nights in Magnolia Bay, which is due to be released in March of 2021.
September and October were quite stressful, and I brought it all on myself. Because I had previously allowed the existential angst of Covid and the political shit-storm in this country to siphon off some of my focus, it was necessary for me to write 5,000 words a day for two months in order to make my deadline; a task which was further challenged by Hurricane Sally, from which we are still recovering. When I turned in book two, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and resolved to do better, to be more balanced in my approach to the creation of books three and four. November, for me, has been the beginning of my renewed search for balance, an experiment in mindfulness about where I put my focus and how I live my life.
I’m relying heavily on the advice of two books I recently reviewed, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Habit Stacking by S.J. Scott. I have a bunch of poster-sized Post-its that I use for brainstorming book plots, and I used one to create a daily chart that looks a bit like this:
After I do yoga at 10 a.m., I will meditate for ten minutes. (Followed by boxes to check when I succeed)
Then, I will check emails and take care of business before lunch.
After lunch, I will write ±1,000 words.
After I write ±1,000 words, I will do something creative.
After dinner, I will finish anything I didn’t finish before.
Before I go upstairs at bedtime, I will meditate for ten minutes.
My pursuit of balance is going moderately well; I could do better, and that’s what tomorrows are for. If life intervenes or I have occasions to remember that I’m human, I give myself permission to forgive my lapse and begin again tomorrow without judging today too harshly.
During my ten-minute meditations, I have resurrected an old practice that I used enjoyed a decade ago; using a mala to assist me in a mantra practice. The book I was studying back then was Shakti Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. I took the old, underlined and bookmarked book off the keeper shelf and leafed through it for inspiration. Way back then, I had bookmarked about a dozen pages of mantras, each of which I recited twice daily for forty days before moving on to the next one. Here’s how it works: First, you decide the goal you want to accomplish, and write it on a piece of paper. Put the paper somewhere safe, choose a mantra that is specific to your goal, and recite the mantra (either out loud or in your head) 108 times, twice a day for forty days. (The mala, a necklace strung with 108 beads, will help you keep count.) If you miss a day, you start over at Day One. At the end of forty successful days of mantra practice, burn the paper and know that your goal is on the way to being realized. What’s cool about looking at this book again after a decade is that each of the goals I had set out to accomplish through my mantra practice had been realized.
So, for this new practice, I had to set a new goal and choose a new mantra. To do that, I had to decide the biggest obstacles I am facing. And lately, every struggle I am dealing with (focusing on the right things, staying upbeat and productive) are all caused by worry and uncertainty over our nation’s ongoing struggle to get past the Covid virus, and the continued mistrust—and even hatred—each “side” feels for “the other” in this current political climate. The goal of my current practice, I decided, would be to transform mistrust and hatred into understanding and compassion. The mantra I chose is the Great Mani Mantra: “Om Mani Padme Hum.” The Mani Mantra works to unite the heart and mind through compassion and understanding. The transformation begins in the heart of anyone who uses it, but this powerful mantra spreads outward from individuals to change the world.
If any of y’all want to join me in the practice, let me know, and we’ll do it together, from December 1st through January 10th. You’ll need a mala, and though you won’t need the book, you might enjoy the read. You might not actually need a fantastic meditation cushion but if you need permission to buy it for yourself, I’m happy to give it.